As Valentino Rossi begins to plot his return to the track following the accident that left him with a broken leg on Saturday, Dani Pedrosa yesterday underlined his credentials as a genuine championship challenger by dominating the Italian Grand Prix. The race weekend at Mugello was marred by Rossi's accident in final practice when he had lost control of his Yamaha bike at Turn 15.
The nine-time world champion suffered a fractured right shin bone in the crash and was airlifted to hospital in Florence where he had surgery to repair the injury. Speaking to the Italian TV station Mediaset during a telephone interview before the race, the 31-year-old was in good spirits as he spoke about the incident. "It was an ugly crash but my morale is high, in part because I've realised I get on well with morphine," he said. "The operation went well and they are treating me like one of the family.
"It'll take time [to recover] but the important thing is that I'll be able to return at 100 per cent." There is no fixed date on when Rossi, the defending MotoGP champion, will be able to return to racing, with medical forecasts ranging from three months to others ruling him out for the rest of the season. Dr Roberto Buzzi, who performed Rossi's operation, was pleased with his patient's progress. "He doesn't have pain or fever and is in bed. He was fine overnight and recovering as we hoped," he told news agencies.
Rossi watched yesterday's race from his hospital bed and would have been impressed with Pedrosa's display as he led from start to finish to clinch his first win of the season. The Spaniard leapfrogs Rossi in the standings to move up to second, 25 points behind Jorge Lorenzo, who finished second in Italy. "It was really perfect," Pedrosa said in the post-race press conference. "We had a very good bike on track and improved a lot since Saturday. I'm very happy we finally got a good result after some disappointing last laps in the previous grands prix. My teammate [Andrea Dovizioso] also did a good job to finish third.
"We had a tough time in the winter, in the tests everything was very hard we didn't see the good way until some weeks ago, but it looks like we've come back a little bit and I hope we can stay there and keep this pace. "I'm delighted. I think the team deserves victory. I'd like to thanks all the fans here, who were pushing for Vale [Rossi]. He is having a hard time, as everybody in the paddock knows."
Lorenzo wore a Rossi shirt on the podium as a mark of respect for his teammate. Of his performance, he said: "I couldn't keep up the pace I had in practice and I'm sorry about that, but I'm happy with the 20 points (for second)." Casey Stoner, the 2007 world champion, finished fourth after the Ducati rider overtook Marco Melandri and Randy de Puniet on the final lap. The American rider Ben Spies was seventh.